The Girl from Korea

Koreans believe that alcoholic behaviour is not a sin. They often drink far too much at social and business occasions and have created a culture that encourages this.

So when I was sprawled stone drunk on my team mate’s floor, his Korean girlfriend thought nothing of it. I could still talk and she was asking me questions whose importance came not so much from their content as from the order in which they were asked. “You’ve got such a good job and you’re a nice guy. How come you don’t have a girlfriend?” I replied, “Because Korean girls don’t fuck. And if they do, they’re either bar girls or they start whining about marrying you.” I was drunk, so I was excused. But it hardly seemed that she’d noticed what I’d said. “Oh, that’s not a problem for me and my friends. Let me introduce you to some of them.”

A couple of weeks later, this scene was again replayed. I was on the floor talking to the foreign boyfriend about a pornographic movie he had just seen. I mentioned to him and the Korean girlfriend there was a kinky sex act I thought sounded exciting. “I’ll have to tell this to my friend that I was going to introduce you to,” she said, and no amount of persuasion could change her mind.

It seemed like I could do nothing wrong. “Dan,” the Korean girlfriend reported to me, “I told my friend what you wanted to do. She said it sounded interesting.” And so I was introduced to her. A public school teacher graduated from the best university in South Korea. Her family was very well connected and everyone spoke English. Her father had an MA from the USA, her brother’s best friend was a faded, but still famous pop star. Her cousin and best friend spoke beautiful English and had once been a broadcaster for the national news in Pusan. Having quit her job as a girl’s PE teacher in Korea, she had moved to the US for 2 years to be with her Korean-American boyfriend. When I met her, she worked as the personnel manager of a small language school.

Very impressive, and when I met her and found her just as beautiful as she was capable, I thought, “Wow.” Our relationship was a whirlwind. In a sense, it had to be. I had been making plans to for over a year to go to Canada with a Japanese lady friend with whom I had no romantic relationship, but as everyone in Asia knows, Japanese men may be out to rape your wives and daughters, but now the girls are out there raping the men. Fear the Japanese girls!

Any hint of trouble became lost in the speed of our relationship. We met on Sunday. By the next Saturday, we were off to the World Championship, hosted by the embassy of the third world country that was the defending world champion . She confessed to me that she had told her mother about her new Canadian boyfriend. I cringed. Korea is xenophobiaville. She asked me to guess what her mother had replied. I braced for the worst. Her mom, she said, had given her a credit card and told her to go buy a new dress. A new dress! I could hardly believe it. My friends had told me horror stories of their girlfriend’s parents and here was mine telling us to have a good time.

We went to the party and it was brilliant. Attended by ambassadors and business executives from all over the country, it was a virtual Who’s Who of the Korea foreign community. Looking stunning in her new sleeveless black dress, she had caught the eye of the French ambassador, who had come to flirt with her. One of only two Korean women at the affair (the other became so drunk that her escort had to remove her) she stood out as a glamourous, exotic date among important friends.

She stayed over that night and several more that week. In a country where eight months of coffee shop dates before the first kiss, she stood out as clearly the best girlfriend in the country.

Ahhh, but it all came at a price. Everyday there was a new problem. And when she took me to her neighborhood pub, where her rich friends hung out, the troubles reached what I thought had to be their peak. Apparently, her brother had decided to take back the honour I was stealing from his family. Arriving drunk, he started breaking everything in sight. Only the intercession of his friends preventing something truely ugly from happening.

Outside the problems however, all went well in the whirlwind of an overseas romance. She would phone everyday, as I would call her, five times, sometimes more. I would drop by her office, when a light day permitted. I was introduced as her boyfriend and when a querying voice once asked, “Your friend?” she replied, “No, my boyfriend.”

Let’s not forget in all this haste, my impending trip with that the Japanese girl. As the days got closer, she became more and more irritated by the possibility. Then I hit on an idea; I would introduce her to my Japanese friend to show her there was nothing to fear. I was warned against this by more seasoned hands, but I persisted. I was certain it would clear up any misunderstanding.

We all met. Everything seemed to go well and I was off to Canada. But not before one last display of the romantic tension of the time. At the airport, she stopped to ask, “What do you want from me?” I replied in what was certainly true at that time, “I want you to be my lover and my companion and my best friend and if we’re together a long time and we’re happy and you want to, I’ll marry you.” I thought she would cry.

But memories are short things. Even as I wrote to her everyday I was in Canada, running up hundreds of dollars in phone bills she could not bear the idea of me being with another women, no matter how innocent. Perhaps my sister or my mom would be acceptable, but simply no one else.

One night she called me to ask if she could meet me at the airport when I arrived. I was delighted. But within a few days, all had changed. I called her to confirm that she’d be at the airport, but this time she replied, “Let’s just be good friends. OK.” I called her again trying to understand what had happened, but each time she answered the same way. I didn’t know what to do.

I returned to Korea. She wasn’t at the airport. Nor did she return my call when I phoned her pager. I threw in the towel. That was as much as I could take.

As soon as she realized that I’d given up on her, she started phoning me. And phoning me and phoning me and phoning me. Perhaps a hundred times over the course of two days. But by then, I’d had given up. We talked several times on the phone and wrote a few letters, but after that, I never saw her again.


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